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Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup action Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. (IMSA photo)

Rain Aids Wagner To Mazda Score

STEAM CORNERS, Ohio — Reigning Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) won the race through Mid-Ohio’s Thunder Valley before actual thunder forced IMSA to end the race just shy of the halfway point on Saturday. 

Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) crossed the line less than half a second behind Thomas with nine laps in the books moments before the race was red flagged for lightning in the area. Matthew Dirks (No. 76 McCumbee McAleer Racing) converted his front row start into his debut series podium finish with his run to third at the line. 

The field of 29 Mazda MX-5 Cup machines took the green flag under sunny skies for the opening race of the doubleheader weekend to mark rounds five and six of the 2022 championship season. A clean start ensued as runners jostled for position in the opening segment of the scheduled 45-minute race. 

With some previous race winners and championship contenders starting the race deep in the pack, scores of passes saw the order continue to change from lap to lap. But just nine laps into the race, the caution flag flew for lightning in the area with a red flag shortly thereafter.  

With less than 30 minutes left on the clock and a mandatory 30-minute wait time for conditions to clear per the IMSA weather safety protocol, officials waved the checkered flag to signal the end of the race.  

“I think the race was just kind of starting to develop when it got stopped,” said Wagner. “There was no rhyme or reason to the move that won it, it was just good luck that it happened before the red flag. I’ve lost races to full-course yellows and strange random occurrences. I’m a tough competitor and like tough competition, so this isn’t the most fulfilling win, but I was in first place at the right time so will take it!”

“It is a bit weird to end the race early, and everyone wishes we could have run it out fully but sometimes these things happen,” said Thomas. “You win some and lose some this way, just one of those deals with some weird circumstances. But we will take it and move on to tomorrow!”

“It was kind of a weird way to get my first podium, Dirks said. “I wasn’t expecting the red flag so I wasn’t as aggressive maybe at that stage, but the car was really good and I had a great push from my teammate Justin Piscitell (No. 89 McCumbee McAleer Racing) at the start. Thanks to my crew chief for the car. It was really good and I felt like I was just saving it for later.”  

Michael Carter (No. 05 Carter Racing Enterprises) and Piscitell completed the top five.


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